A blazing comet on an irregular orbit around the underground Los Angeles art scene, Dezzy Donahue is confident in her talent to the point of arrogance but unable to produce the goods, behind on the rent, struggling with a commission and in conflict with her agent who sees little point in trying to place her work in galleries when it doesn’t sell.
Will Dezzy knuckle down and apply herself or will she abandon herself to chemical oblivion and hope the muse will show up while she checks out? Paying a visit to her dealer Hadrian and his poker buddies Pops and Abe, Dezzy tries something new, Hadrian having issued her with the warning to start on small doses of the potent hallucinogen, as though she knew the meaning of restraint.
Waking up in a party full swing with her creativity boosted, Dezzy continues to shovel chemicals up her nose and throw herself into her work and the club scene, pushing away those who are concerned about her behaviour, including her always-slacker sometimes-boyfriend Clive, and instead hanging with Courtney and Ronnie, a mysterious power couple whose lack of inhibition is equally intoxicating to Dezzy.
The third film from writer/director Joe Begos which reunites some of his regular players, The Battery’s Jeremy Gardner as Clive, Beyond the Gates‘ Graham Skipper as Hadrian and Re-Animator: The Musical‘s George Wendt as Pops, Bliss is a stylistic departure from the straightforward narratives of Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye (released internationally as Supernatural Forces).
His work always influenced by the horror of the eighties, in particular Carpenter and Cronenberg, while there are still aspects of that in the sparse cityscapes and Steve Moore’s synth score as Dezzy makes her nocturnal excursions to feed her cravings, but there is something else smeared into the canvas of Bliss, an experimental and experiential art horror stained in tainted blood which feeds off the distillation of The Hunger and The Addiction cut with the madness of Mandy.
As Dezzy, Chicago Fire‘s Dora Madison is unrepentant in her indulgences and her attitude, exhibiting no self-control, convinced of her own genius and that she has no need for others, Begos allowing Madison to push her performance to the limit even as his own vision spirals into violence and destruction and the price for Dezzy’s inspiration comes due.
Powered by goth rock, doom metal and a bottomless pit of cultivated nihilism, Begos captures the dinginess of the clubs and the highs of the drugs, the need to be uncompromised and unique and the determination to succeed when those with connections feed off those with talent, controlling their careers, Bliss a hallucinogenic cocktail of art and horror which sits comfortably alongside The Devil’s Candy and Daniel Isn’t Real.
Released on Blu-ray by Eureka, Bliss has no less than three commentaries, by “Daughters of Darkness” Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, by Begos and producer Josh Ethier, and by Begos and Madison, the director commenting to her that “you’re basically playing me in the movie,” even to her clothes having been principally lifted from his wardrobe of heavy metal and cult movie t-shirts.